Judy Tan

I’m Curious: What’s Your Big Idea?

In a world of countless (often similar) presentations – how to do you get people to really pay attention?

Many presentations are issue-focused: here are the facts, organized to persuade you to accept our position.  It gets boring.  Chris Anderson, in his book on Ted Talks: The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking proposes an alternative approach: develop curiosity. Think of how we all listen to stories: we want to listen to the whole message because we’re curious as to how it will turn out, so we stay till the end.

The key is to present an idea, not an issue. As he notes, June Cohen noticed that idea-based talks lead with curiosity, whereas issue-based talks lead with lessons – morality, capitalism, sustainability, etc.  An issue exposes a problem; an idea proposes a solution. An issue may be something I know something about; an idea proposed something I may not yet know, so I will feel that this may make a difference to me. You’re not just asking them to care about your issue; instead you’re taking the audience on a journey to discuss a puzzle and offer a solution as a gift,

For instance, we all know (the issue) that despite millions of research dollars; no magic bullet has been found to solve Alzheimer’s Disease. However, here’s another approach: the idea that a pill may not be the right approach. Instead using a series of therapies together has shown some indication that it might actually slow the progression of AD and possibly reverses some of its impacts. Are you curious to know about this approach, how it would work, what kinds of trials and FDA tests has it gone through? Is it available to use? Can I invest in the companies engaged in the R&D and commercialization?

Engaging the audience through curiosity requires that you, as the speaker, need to use your best ADAP attributes: Audience-Driven and Authentic Presentation) attributes. You need to be competent and passionate on the topic; you need to engage the audience in your own struggle to understand the idea and where it’s going to take everyone, so people are inspired and enthusiastic.  Unlike issue-presentations, where the goal is for the speaker to persuade the audience, here the goal is to engage the audience journey in the discovery process and paint a bold picture of the (future) idea, so we, the audience, persuades ourselves.

Next time you’re preparing a presentation, get the audience curious on what the idea means for them!  Then share with us the results of this presentation style!

The Challenge of Innovation Inertia

People love talking about innovation because it generally makes life better. Yet institutions generally resist the efforts needed to generate innovations.

The Law of Inertia says that an object at rest or in motion tends to stay in that state unless acted upon. Companies spend enormous amounts of time, energy and capital to build “strategic systems” to develop effective systems for all aspects of the company – leadership, operations, finance, marketing, sales, etc. Mike Shipulski notes in the HOW and WHY of Innovation that any innovation, especially disruptive innovation, for such companies is “more difficult because it requires an admission that the way you’ve done things are no longer viable.”  As a result, when things don’t work as well as they should senior management gage in incremental innovation – smaller steps to improve things. Only when the hurdle of admission is crossed, can significant innovation efforts occur.

So how do companies that are committed to keeping their industry leadership roles overcome inertia? They accept the challenge and build systems outside the normal business process to address it. Some companies hire inside Strategists whose mandate is to challenge assumptions, by listening to innovative ideas proposed by staff not wedded to existing system and explore them. If a disruptive system makes sense, a proposal is made to a group of senior leaders committed to improving situations, not just the head of that department. Other firms create events each year encouraging people to try new things (e.g., hackathons) to use the special forum to open itself to new ideas. Still others create a culture in which people are encouraged to try new things, advocate for them and discover if they work before someone shoots down the idea.  For instance, companies like Google and 3M give employees free time to pursue ideas in their own (15-20%) time.

Given the challenge of Innovation Inertia, what is your company doing to harness the creativity of your employees and create, when possible, significant, even disruptive innovations. Share the system with us, so we can share with others!

 

8 Ways to Inspire Your Audience

We all know that the goal of a presentation isn’t to do a “data-dump” and just present the facts. Our goal is to convert information into inspiration so the audience will take action. Is it time to inspire your audience?

Chris Anderson, in his book on Ted Talks: The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking, offers 8 ways presenters can have that impact, by committing to presentation excellence for the content, organization, engagement style and delivery.  Here are the impacts you want your audience to achieve:

  • Connection: I trust this person
  • Engagement: Everything appears so exciting
  • Curiosity: I hear and see passion in the presentation and delivery
  • Understanding: the presentation, your voice, energy and physical gestures communicate it well
  • Empathy: I can tell you care
  • Conviction: I feel your determination in body language
  • Action: I want to be on your team. Sign me up!

As Chris says in the aggregate, “this is inspiration”.  We all know it when we experience it.

Are you having such impact in your presentations? How would your audience rate your presentation skills? If it’s time for some coaching, let us know!

What’s Your Corporate Policy Concerning GROWTHH Time?

You and your children may live to 100+. How will you have a fulfilling work-life balance?

Companies are learning that, in the longevity economy, people prefer not to stop working at the “traditional retirement age”; they want to stay productive for a number of reasons, only one of which is economic. In a world with tight labor markets, how do these companies avoid losing people with expertise and experience?

The answer to both questions involves the effective use of “time-off”.  We call it GROWTHH time: Goal Re-Orientation with Time for Health & Happiness.

Just as constructing a brick building requires the proper cement between the bricks, so too does the need for time between careers/jobs for proper work-life balance. People often take a “break” after concentrating time in one “job” in order to re-calibrate for the next.

Students take a “break” after finishing school.  In Israel, people completing their army service take time to explore the world and themselves, before starting their job. Bill Gates, realizing that Microsoft had not developed an effective plan to harness the power of the internet, took time off to gain a fresh perspective and develop a plan. Like many other corporate leaders, he continued to take time off periodically to explore and think things out. Teachers are granted “sabbaticals”, time off after several years, to refresh and reinvigorate. Forrest Gump took time to run across the country to make sense of his world. People take “gap years” to stop doing what they’ve been doing and think through what should come next.

Another way in which we recognize the need for workers to get in touch with their new roles and appreciate them is to give them time off for work-life balance shifts. If you’re having a baby, you get maternity/paternity leave; some companies give time off to take care of family members, to grieve losses, etc.

The world has changed and we all need more time to reflect on our elongated lives and the longevity economy. Fewer and fewer people have one lifetime career and retire from it and/or in some cases continue working in one “encore career”.  Today, people have more jobs/careers than every before and do so for longer periods of time. Indeed, Roberta Golinkoff & Kathy Hirst-Pasek, the authors of Becoming Brilliant, predict that children today will probably have 10 careers during their lifetimes.

Now is the time for companies to develop policies which give workers of all ages sufficient GROWTH time both to ensure they can lead a fullfilling life and maximize their contribute to the company’s future. This means enabling workers to think of their futures and plan appropriately. Fundamental to all is an open line of communication between the worker, supervisor, HR and leadership.

Older workers, who were raised  believing that they’re “supposed” to retire around 65, need to know that there are many options. The traditional practice of ”cold-turkey” retirement – today you’re working here and tomorrow you’re not – is just one. Many companies are experimenting with “phased retirement”models  that benefit both worker and company. For instance, in a phased retirement process where someone reduces the number of weekly workhours over a few years, the extra time can be used as GROWTHH time to explore next steps: travel, relocation, entrepeneurship, etc. Further, during this period of time, they can explore other ways the worker can contributing in the company: training younger workers, serving as mentor, contributing on innovation committes, providing advisory conulting services, serve as back-up workers, etc. Clearly this is preferable to losing a worker to “leisure retirement” who gets bored and chooses to rejoin the workforce later, including working for your competitor. Phased retirement is a win-win policy.

Enough Horseless Carriages!

It’s time we change our frames-of-reference and language to address the reality of the world into which  our children are aging, instead of holding on to antiquated ones that reflects a world that is becoming history.

Sure, lifestyles, habits, cultures, norms, etc. change over time. At any time, we define our “present” by some aspects of the past and some of a “coming” future. There is no right or wrong there. But as role models for the next generation, we need to let go of the world we see growing around us. If we like it, great; if we don’t, we can try to change it.

Take the concept of “retirement”. In the 1880s, in a predominantly agrarian world that was moving toward industrialization, Otto van Bismarck recognized that after a life of fighting wars and working in the fields, people needed a break from work, and created the first Western “retirement system. At 74 year of age, he advanced legislation to allow people to retire with a pension at age 70; later it was dropped to 65 – which is the age that many other societies then adopted.

Fearing that workers in factories and hard labor would continue to work till they die, in 1935 Social Security was created, giving people at target: work till (about) 65, retire from work, and then enjoy a few “golden years” of non-work.

In the meanwhile, the world is changing dramatically:

  • The previous agrarian economy was replaced by an industrial one; more recently we live in a knowledge economy. It means fewer and fewer people are “laborers”, who are less able to handle the physical demands of their jobs.
  • Life spans increased – from 41.7 years at the beginning of the 20th century to mid-80s in the 21 century. If it weren’t for the opioid and related epidemics killing young adults, longevity would keep increasing. Indeed, the fastest growing subgroup is people over 85!
  • Recent research shows that beliefs propagated in the last half of the 20th century are myths. Today:
  • Increasingly, people are living to 100+. Today, over 60 million Americans are over 60; by 2030, they will constitute 20% of our population. In 2050, not very far in the future, 2 Billion people, globally, will be over the age of 60 (worth about $15 Trillion!)
  • Thirty plus years ago, industry experts referred conceptualized a world where people work and when they retire, re-wire, re-invent themselves (whatever term you like), they then seek an encore career. Today’s researchers find that people approaching “traditional” retirement age do NOT plan to retire from work; they want to continue at their jobs, take other jobs, volunteer, etc.; they want “purpose” in life. Moreover, they will have many careers, not just two; indeed, today most people have multiple jobs/careers through life; the largest group of entrepreneurs according to the Kauffman Foundation are adults past 50.
  • We perpetuate too many negative stereotypes. People do not necessarily become decrepit and depressed as they get older; many men are having children in their 60s and 70s (examples). Many important leaders (examples like Warren Buffet, etc). are between 60-100, and going strong.
  • As a result, most people age 50+ do not consider themselves part of the “old crowd” – a mistaken framework created by people who group people by whether they’re older or younger than 50.
  • Finally, get rid of stereotypes which make it harder for older workers who have so much to offer in a knowledge/relationship economy to continue contributing.

What does all this mean? We need to change our frameworks and language.

  • As Henry Ford noted when he invested the “car”, people didn’t want faster horses or buggies, they wanted faster travel. To drive a “horseless carriage” means looking backward; calling it an “automobile” addressed a future world. (We’re still making the same mistake: We’re not entering a world of “driverless cars”, but one of “autonomous vehicles”. And so on.)
  • While every generation can learn the basic development passages through school, careers and family, we’re the first generation trying to figure out how to navigate a longer life. We’re not just adding on extra years post-retirement, we’re creating new paths.
  • More important, however, is that we’re the first role models for younger generations and that’s an important responsibility. Our children and grandchildren will live elongated lives – expecting to live to 100+. We need to help them navigate adult lives (from 20-100+) according to new rules for balancing personal passions with life’s purposes (e.g., work, social causes, learning, etc.) while recognizing the importance of handling the other life basics: health, wealth and relationships.
  • For instance, in an elongated life, you will have multiple careers (the authors of Becoming Brilliant believe today’s children will have 10!) and need to take time off between life events to figure out who we were, are and want to be. (e.g., GROWTHH time- Goal Reorientation with Time for Health and Happiness).
  • Finally, just as BMW has discovered in its assembly plans, businesses should recognize that ergonomic design of facilities can meet the needs of different people and keep them productive regardless of age.

In sum, to have a fulfilling life to 100+, we need to follow the lead of Wayne Gretzky, possibly the greatest ice-hockey player ever. Instead of going to where the puck is, as other players do, he goes “to where the puck is going to be” Start planning your elongated life. Start being a role model for future generations. Start sharing your life’s wisdom – become a SharExer, sharing your expertise and experience.

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